Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

Consumers Deserve Private Flood Insurance Options | Commentary

By Bradley Kading

After years of trying and failing to reform the long-broken National Flood Insurance Program, perhaps the simplest solution is to inject old-fashioned competition into the marketplace. By allowing private insurers to break the government’s flood insurance monopoly, consumers would have something they have not had in some time: choice.

It is no secret the NFIP has long been plagued by serious problems. In recent years, the program has struggled to pay out claims, failed to accurately price risk and improperly mapped flood zones. On top of that, taxpayers are on the hook for the NFIP’s massive $23 billion debt, which continues to balloon with each major flooding event. Despite this, efforts to get flood insurance on track in a way that would benefit consumers and taxpayers have not advanced.

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Fixing School Lunch Inequities | Commentary

By Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is gradually fixing school lunch inequities. But to make sure all children continue to have growing access to healthful school lunches, the Senate must not weaken the legislation when its reauthorization is considered on Sept. 17.

Reversing current provisions that require more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains would reverse new findings such as those from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A recent study the organization conducted found that schools with more racially, ethnically diverse student bodies now have greater access to these foods every day thanks to the act.

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August 28, 2015

In New Orleans, Waiting Out an Unfortunate Anniversary

Linda Nelson hold a picture of her house in New Orleans that was destroyed after hurricane Katrina, at a rally with survivors of the storm, in Upper Senate Park.  The rally was held by ACORN Katrina Survivors Association and democratic senators to bring attention the still looming problem that evacuees face and that they need government help to get back on their feet.  Blanche Barnes, left, also lost her home.

Linda Nelson holds a picture of her house in New Orleans that was destroyed after Hurricane Katrina, at a 2006 rally with survivors of the storm in Upper Senate Park. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

NEW ORLEANS — It’s an incredibly rare 73-degree August morning here. The stately live oaks stand out against a perfectly clear blue sky. The smell of fried seafood greets me as I pass the neighborhood lunch spot, and I hear a trumpeter in the distance practicing scales.

I am blessed to live here.

It feels as if the city should be getting ready for the next seafood or music festival, or some crazy walking parade with outrageous feathered costumers carrying go cups.

Instead, the city is holding its collective breath until all of this Katrina 10th anniversary madness is behind us. Full story

Papal Popularity | Commentary

By Robert Sirico

When Pope Francis visits the United States in September it will be first time Jorge Bergoglio will visit these shores. But on the return flight from Latin America last month, the pope already gave some insight into themes he is likely to address during his visit to Cuba and the U.S.

The pontiff confirmed an observation that a number of commentators have made (myself included) regarding his lack of economic clarity. “I have a great allergy to economic things,” he said, “and I didn’t understand it very well.”

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August 27, 2015

Free Affordable Care Act From Unpopular Taxes | Commentary

By Dan Maffei

Even as the White House touts its success, the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare,” remains unpopular. However, many of the most hated provisions – new taxes – are not vital to the law’s purpose, which is to ensure Americans can access affordable health insurance.

These unnecessary provisions include taxes on medical device manufacturers and health insurance premiums, as well as a special tax on so-called “Cadillac” comprehensive health plans. These taxes are all likely to increase costs for patients – precisely the opposite of what the ACA is supposed to do. Unlike the law’s penalty for violating the mandate to obtain insurance, these taxes have no purpose other than to help us say the ACA would reduce future deficits.

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Yes Congress, There Is a Role You Can Play to Protect Breastfeeding | Commentary

By Gina Cicatelli Ciagne

August is a month of family fun, vacations, hot and steamy weather and … breastfeeding awareness! As a former breastfeeding mom and now a breastfeeding educator and advocate, this makes August my favorite month. I get to talk about an issue I’m passionate about and help others understand why we need to support nursing moms and their babies at home, in public, and at work.

Breastfeeding is often thought of as just an act that impacts that mom and baby. While it’s true it’s a great bonding experience between mom and baby, it’s also something that impacts the health of our nation. That means it impacts all of us. Decades of research show that breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for moms and babies. However, it seems that there’s still a level of personal discomfort around breastfeeding for many women. This discomfort can prevent them from giving their children a lifetime of health benefits, such as a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. Not to mention, the benefits for moms. For instance, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and ovarian and breast cancer.

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August 26, 2015

Safeguarding Our Climate Means Safeguarding Our Health | Commentary

By Laura Anderko 

Many heath organizations and health care providers recognize climate change for what it is: a clear and present danger to public health. With the impacts of climate change making themselves felt around the country and around the world, our elected leaders must take action to prevent suffering and promote healthy and safe communities by supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The evidence that climate change is a significant health issue is undeniable. The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, has said climate change poses “an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health,” while U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has warned it will lead to more asthma attacks and more extreme weather events — such as floods and wildfires — that harm our health. In addition, more than 120 major health organizations have named climate change a serious public health issue.

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Pass Permanent Internet Tax Ban in September | Commentary

By Karen Kerrigan

The laundry list of pressing legislative matters facing Congress in September is predictably daunting. From a long-term extension of the transportation bill to an overall package to keep the government open, the heat of August will surely still be felt on the Hill after recess.

When it comes to the Senate extending the ban on Internet access taxes — preferably on a permanent basis — non-action is not an option. Taxing the Internet would have deleterious effects on the economy.

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August 25, 2015

Senate Must Pass the 21st Century Cures Act | Commentary

By Peter Pitts

In a rare display of bipartisanship in politically polarized Washington, 344 members of the House of Representatives voted in July to pass the 21st Century Cures Act.

This legislation has come at a pivotal time in medicine. It will help researchers get new and better treatments to patients sooner, which could significantly reduce healthcare costs. At a recent hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noted that the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia could cost the United States $226 billion this year alone, yet funding for research into new treatments for these disease was only a quarter of that level. With more research dollars and access to better medications, people could be living more fulfilling lives at a lower cost to the government.

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Stay COOL: Keep the Country of Origin Labeling Act Intact | Commentary

By Joel D. Joseph

Recently, the House of Representatives panicked and caved in to demands from Canada, Mexico and the World Trade Organization gutting the Country of Origin Labeling Act. These are the same members of Congress who want President Barack Obama to “get tough” with Iran and Russia, yet cower when threatened by third-rate powers.

California has a population greater than Canada. Mexico is a drug cartel operating as a country. Every day we allow substandard Mexican delivery trucks to cross our borders and enter into the United States. With regard to our northern neighbor, we have not complained that Canada has imposed confiscatory duties on American dairy products and chicken.

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August 24, 2015

Living Proof of Why We Must Build a Strong VA | Commentary

By Garry J. Augustine

There is a growing national debate about the future of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some even question whether our nation can afford to provide future generations of veterans the health care and benefits the VA provides today. So, it seems important to ask, what would life be like without a financially solvent VA?

For me, it would have meant a dramatically different life, certainly a much more difficult one. And, while it’s been decades since I served, I am sure the same holds true for countless veterans who are much younger than me.
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What’s Next for Medicaid? Oral Health for All | Commentary

By Steve Pollock

On the 50th anniversary of Medicaid, it’s time to ensure the oral health of all Americans.

Fifty years ago, the healthcare landscape in America changed forever when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law legislation establishing Medicare and Medicaid. Originally developed to cover medical expenses for poor children, their parents, and elderly and disabled Americans receiving public assistance, Medicaid has evolved over time to cover larger segments of the uninsured population, with the most recent expansions resulting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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August 21, 2015

A Once and Future Glimpse of AIDS | Commentary

By Tom Sheridan

It is impossible to tell under what circumstances an ordinary life might transform into the extraordinary. It may come about because of something wonderful — a book you have written is accepted for publication and becomes a best seller. Or it may come about under the least auspicious of circumstances. For a 13-year-old boy growing up in the 1980s in Indiana, it came with a diagnosis of a terrible new disease called AIDS. His name was Ryan White.

Looking at the world through his eyes at that time, the world was very different than it was before or has been since. At that time, Ryan White would see the very best and very worst of human nature. AIDS was a newly emergent medical condition. Gay men were so over-represented among the earliest cases that the condition was initially known as Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome. There was no test to tell if you were infected or exposed. There was no cure. There was no treatment. There was only fear. And there was courage.

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ESEA Should Address the Impact of Child Poverty on STEM Performance | Commentary

By Michael S. Lubell

“It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” That was Albert Einstein’s assessment of American education in 1949.

As Congress prepares to complete reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, members should reflect on Einstein’s judgment, especially when they shine the spotlight on science. Striking the right balance between quantifying outcomes through standardized tests and evaluating creative performance through relatively subjective appraisals is not an easy task. But if we care about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce of the future, we must get the balance right. And we must understand the extraordinary impact childhood poverty has on science performance.

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August 20, 2015

The U.S. Must Lead on Technology Privacy Issues | Commentary

By Julie M. Anderson

It’s that time of the year again. The 2016 campaign season just kicked off with the Republican presidential primary debates earlier this month. Notably, the primetime debate included exchanges between Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie on the seemingly esoteric topic of data surveillance. Christie criticized the senator’s support for reducing the National Security Agency’s surveillance authorities. And earlier that evening at the undercard debate, Carly Fiorina discussed the challenge of balancing data encryption and law enforcement’s access to data, noting that tech companies need to cooperate more with law enforcement moving forward.

These debates took place in the post-Snowden era where governments face growing concerns about data privacy and strained international relations. While candidates in 2008 and 2012 did not address these issues on the campaign trail, their new prevalence shows that the American public is now more aware of and concerned about data privacy and security. Now more than ever, our next president and representatives in Congress must put forth a clear framework to uphold the rule of law and protect individual privacy and national security.

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